The presidents of the EU institutions (David Sassoli for the Parliament, Ursula von der Leyen for the Commission and Antonio Costa for the EU Council) signed in Brussels the regulation establishing the EU digital Covid certificate, or Green Pass, starting from the next first July.
The certificate will help travelers within the EU who hold it to avoid being subjected to testing and / or quarantine when traveling within the EU, thus contributing to the gradual restoration of freedom of movement in Europe, effectively constrained by restrictions introduced by states for public health reasons.
From 1 July, when the regulation will come into force, the Pass will be a right for all EU citizens who meet the requirements: it applies to those who have been vaccinated, for those who have recovered from Covid-19 and for those who undergo a test and is negative.
The certificate will be issued by the national authorities free of charge, in digital or paper format and will contain a QR code that will allow to verify its authenticity throughout Europe: for certificates already issued by states or regions, a period of 6 weeks is foreseen for made compatible with the EU model (member countries had asked for months, Parliament pushed to shorten this period).
The Gateway, the EU IT platform that makes the Pass possible and that provides the digital keys that allow cross-border validity, has been operational since the beginning of the month and some countries have already started issuing certificates: so far over a million have been issued. While obtaining the Pass is a right, its use may vary to some extent from state to state. With these caveats, here are the details.
vaccine – The Pass will be valid from fourteen days after the last dose of the anti-Covid vaccine. Beginning that day, fully vaccinated people, i.e. with two doses for AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna and with one dose for Janssen (J&J), who hold the certificate, should be exempt from testing and quarantines while traveling. The same must be true for people who have recovered and who have received only one dose of the vaccine, which is considered sufficient to be protected from the disease.
A country is free to choose to recognize and issue the Pass even after the first dose, but each State can decide to behave as it sees fit, in this case: therefore, for example, Italy can issue the Pass after the first dose, but Denmark is free not to recognize it and to ask for a test.
If a member state accepts a vaccination test to remove the restrictions inside after the first dose, then it must also accept EU vaccine passes, under the same conditions. The pass is valid for EU citizens vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the EMA; States may decide to recognize other vaccines, authorized nationally and not at EU level (such as Russian Sputnik serum in Hungary).
Healed – People recovered from Covid-19 should be exempt from testing and / or quarantine within 180 days following the positive PCR test, which certifies the infection (the validity of the certificate is starting from the eleventh day after the test, once after the period of contagiousness).
TEST – For those who are not vaccinated or cured, then the test remains, which the pass certifies and which is thus recognized even abroad, unlike what happens today. A standard validity period is proposed for the tests (today each country determines the validity autonomously): for PCR or molecular tests the validity is 72 hours, while for rapid antigenic ones it is 48 hours. The fast ones, considered increasingly reliable, are recommended, but states are free to choose whether or not to accept them for the purposes of the Pass.
While the tests are paid, the vaccines are free: this element of objective discrimination has not been removed in the negotiations between Parliament and the Council, due to the firm opposition of the latter to impose free tests, as requested by the Chamber. The Commission has earmarked an additional € 100 million to help states equip themselves with rapid tests and thus lower their price. The certificate is not issued in the presence of the result of a do-it-yourself test.
FAMILIES WITH MINORS – To avoid separating households at the border, minors traveling with parents exempt from quarantine, for example because they are vaccinated, should also be exempted from quarantine. Children under 6 years of age are also exempt from testing: those aged 6 and over, however, will have to undergo tests to get the pass.
EMERGENCY BRAKE – An emergency brake mechanism is envisaged: EU states will not be able to impose further travel restrictions on certificate holders, such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing, “unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health” .
Scientific evidence will have to be taken into account, “including epidemiological data published by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)”. The measures should be notified, if possible, 48 hours in advance to the other Member States and the Commission, while the public should be given just 24 hours’ notice.